Website spotlight: Radiation safety: It’s complicated

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, February 17, 2012

X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs are used widely and often in healthcare facilities across the United States. Chances are, most people have received at least one x-ray at some point in their lives, whether for a broken bone or a routine dental exam, and in many cases, diagnostic imaging is necessary to correctly diagnose an issue in order to save lives and prevent further injuries or infections.

But radiation is toxic, and even though x-rays are helpful diagnostic tools, the long-term effects of radiation may be harmful. Experts are still debating the long-term risks of radiation exposure, but according to The Joint Commission's Sentinel Event Alert 47, x-rays are considered a carcinogen by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Joint Commission Sentinel Event Alert 47 urges healthcare organizations to seek new ways to reduce exposure to repeated doses of radiation from diagnostic procedures, and says that over the past two decades, the U.S. population's total exposure to ionizing radiation has nearly doubled. According to one study, the incidence of cancer related to CT radiation is 0.02%-0.04%.

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